Turmeric is a popular spice that is native to Southeast Asia. Nearly 75% of the world’s turmeric is grown in India. It is part of the ginger family and has underground roots with a pungent, odorous orange flesh that is either used fresh or turned into a golden powder that is the spice known as turmeric.
Historically, turmeric has been used in both Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine for its healing properties. For centuries it has been used to support respiratory tract, skin health, joint health, and digestive health. Modern science has begun to explore the benefits of this ancient healing compound which is packed with antioxidants, and there is a great deal of current support for its use as an immune system booster. While the data on turmeric’s efficacy to date is largely anecdotal, there is enough interest in its healing properties to generate scientific research as to its impact on cognitive function, cardiovascular health, blood glucose levels (already in normal range), managing oxidative stress, and a number of additional benefits. The research is currently ongoing and expanding.
Culinarily, turmeric is a rich, flavorful spice that is often the main ingredient in curry powder blends. It is widely used in rice dishes, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine, soups, stews, and nearly all curry dishes. Its bright yellow color has earned it the nickname “Indian saffron,” as the spice is often used in place of the significantly more expensive saffron.
Turmeric is often added to beverages such as smoothies, juices, and waters; as a tea, it is a staple in many cultures. And if your favorite coffee shop isn’t serving turmeric drinks yet, it’s likely only a matter of time until turmeric tea, golden milk, turmeric chai tea, and turmeric lattes will be available everywhere.
Turmeric is a spice and curcumin is a naturally occurring compound that is found in the Curcuma longa (turmeric) plant’s roots. Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant that also gives turmeric its bright yellow color. While its potential health benefits are numerous, its bioavailability is intermittently poor, thereby impacting its absorption and its overall effectiveness. Combining curcumin with piperine, (an ingredient in black pepper), fats, or pineapple for its Bromelain, has been shown to increase the absorption of curcumin in the body. WIth improved bioavailability, more research should be done to determine its impact on cognitive, digestive, cardiovascular, and brain health, along with oxidative stress.
For centuries turmeric has been known for its antioxidant properties, but current research as to whether it promotes a positive mood, improves overall cognitive function, positively impacts brain health, and is hepatoprotective, and cardioprotective remains ongoing. There’s also research to suggestturmeric’s positive impact on joint health, digestion, and even post-exercise recovery.
This study of the modulation of exercise-induced muscle damage by curcumin supplementation in a physically active population found curcuminoids to be a powerful ingredient to support muscles post-exercise.
Results from this study on the effect of dietary turmeric on breath hydrogen suggests that turmeric can activate bowel motility and increase fermentation of carbs at the colon, which supports digestive health and is similar to the actions of a prebiotic.
This study of the diverse effects of a low dose supplement of lipidated curcumin in healthy middle aged human subjects found that curcumin, unlike the placebo, raised salivary scavenging capacities, increased plasma catalase activities, and increased plasma nitric oxide. It is important to note that this was a lipid extract.
Results from this study suggest that curcumin can boost endothelial function (when combined with aerobic exercise) which can then support blood flow in postmenopausal people.
There is no recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for turmeric supplements, but the general consensus is that 500-2,000mg per day is the standard daily dose. There are other factors such as height, weight, overall health status, and reason for supplementing that may increase your daily dosage up to as much as 10,000mg per day. Always consult your healthcare provider when adding a supplement to ensure that you are getting adequate amounts, yet not too much, of a given supplement.
If you are using turmeric in your food, there is no RDA, though most recipes call for ¼ to ½ tsp. If you are drinking tea, there is also no RDA, though most people consume 1 to 2 cups per day.
Typically, there are no significant side effects reported from taking too much turmeric, although you might experience indigestion, gastric distress, loose yellow stools, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or bloating. At higher doses you might also experience headaches or a skin rash.
If you miss a day when taking a turmeric supplement, remain on your normal schedule and resume taking it at or about the same time the next day. If you are consistent with taking it at the same time each day, do not change the pattern to accommodate one day. Try to remain consistent with the time and dosage you are taking by waiting until the next day to resume taking your turmeric supplement, rather than taking it later in the day and reducing the time between doses.
If you are taking medication and are thinking about adding a turmeric supplement to your diet, consult your physician to determine if this is the right decision for you, and if so, what is the appropriate dosage to meet your needs? Turmeric may interfere with certain medications, but only your doctor can determine if it’s right for you.
People who are pregnant or lactating should avoid taking turmeric as a supplement, though small amounts of it in food is generally safe. Everyone, including people with pre-existing medical conditions should check with their physician before adding any supplements to their protocol, though a small amount of turmeric in your favorite curry dish is also likely safe.
When taking turmeric it is always good to avoid taking unnecessarily high doses. You should also be aware of the potential for interaction with medications and any possible allergic reactions. If you experience any severe allergic reactions or reactions from possible medication interactions, get medical help.
When you are looking for a supplement, always check the ingredients list for potential allergens and any ingredients that do not align with your personal dietary guidelines or preferences. You should always look for high-quality, third-party tested supplements.
For thousands of years, turmeric has been known for its healing potential and its culinary benefits. While there are likely few possible side effects from your favorite Indian food, or adding the beautiful yellow spice also known as “Indian saffron” to any other dish, taking it in supplement form may have some minor side effects. Digestive distress, yellow stools, diarrhea, and indigestion may occur if you are taking too much, but will stop once you find the right dosage. If you are pregnant, lactating, taking any medications on a regular basis, or have any pre-existing health issues, you should contact your physician before you take turmeric, or any other supplement for that matter.
Always look for a high-quality, premium supplement like Care/of’s Turmeric supplement "The Golden Spice."